Rieko Ioane's positive progress at centre for the Blues this season leaves All Blacks coach Ian Foster with a welcome selection headache.
Ioane's strike-rate for the All Blacks — 24 tries in 29 tests — suggests he is at the peak of his powers. Last year, though, he rapidly fell behind Crusaders finishers Sevu Reece and George Bridge in the national pecking order.
At the World Cup in Japan, Ioane played three tests — one off the bench — against Canada, Namibia and in the playoff for third with Wales. Those limited opportunities were the culmination of a decline in form and niggling injuries.
This season, Ioane appears reborn — the move from his accustomed left wing role, where he has played 25 tests, to centre rejuvenating his game.
Centre has long been Ioane's preferred position. He enjoys being one spot closer to the action, and the challenges it poses in attempting to improve the varied skills the role demands — passing, defence, organisation, decision-making.
While Blues coach Leon MacDonald shuffled TJ Faiane and Harry Plummer through the 12 jersey in recent weeks, Ioane has remained a constant at 13.
"I'm extremely thankful for the faith Rangi [MacDonald] and Tana [Umaga] have shown in keeping me there. It's been an awesome experience," Ioane said.
"My two big focuses this year were distribution and defence and they've come a long way. It's always going to be a work-on. It's a totally different position.
"On the wing you wait for the ball and do your magic and you know there's nothing worse than a greedy centre. I'm sure Caleb [Clarke] and Mark [Telea] will tell you that.
"Distribution has been a key point and one I look to improve every game. My ability to now confidently play 13 and wing is awesome for my growth. I'm happy to transition between two positions but primarily for the Blues I see myself as a 13."
That could be a different story when it comes to the All Blacks, though, with Ioane revealing Foster prefers his explosive speed and power on the edge for now.
"We've had little chats. There's a big logjam everywhere in that team so making it is going to be tough. Hopefully he's happy with how this season is going. He definitely sees me as a wing that can play centre.
"Last year was definitely challenging but that's the beauty of rugby, you're going to have your ups and downs it's just a pity it was in a World Cup year. The disappointment of that England game is definitely burning in the back of the mind. You see that with the level every All Black is playing — it has been outstanding.
"I've definitely learned a lot from that season and been better for it. This new challenge at 13 has been awesome for that. I'm happy with my career so far."
Former All Blacks captain Umaga knows plenty about transitioning from wing to centre. In his defensive brief for the Blues, Umaga is helping mentor Ioane through the intricacies.
Ioane's appeal from centre shone two weeks ago when he hit a perfectly angled run to score in the loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch, but Umaga knows better than most the role requires more than those dynamic moments.
"There's still some areas to improve around defence," Umaga said. "It's a bit different when you have multiple people coming down your channel. It's also about connecting with those inside and out and how much he can do with his voice to help him out in that aspect.
"We're really happy with him. We know what he can do on attack. It's also building that side of his game and the distribution. We've seen bits that have been really good. He has great hands. And then it's just understanding that decision-making around when to pass and when to bury the head and get us going forward.
"He has time. He's doing some things I could never do with the speed he's got the ability to catch people out which gives him an advantage. He picks up things really quickly and he's willing to listen, which is great."
With everything Ioane has already accomplished, which includes featuring at the 2016 Rio Olympics, it's easy to forget he's 23 years old. His elevation to the Blues leadership group this season — alongside captain Patrick Tuipulotu, Faiane and injured hooker James Parsons — signals his continued maturity, too.
Whether it's wing, centre or a bit of both, Ioane is near certain to be involved when Foster names his first 35-man All Blacks squad on Sunday, August 30.
Today, when opposing All Blacks midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown as the Blues welcome the winless Chiefs to Eden Park, presents another opportunity to prove his versatile evolution.